Warner Brothers Japan has announced it will remake Clint Eastwood western Unforgiven, with Ken Watanabe attached to star.

At the helm will be director Lee Sang-il, whose previous critical and box office successes include 2010’s Villain and Hula Girls (2006). Lee spoke of his admiration for the 1992 original. “Unforgiven’s underlying theme still has a powerful impact today.” 

The remake will be set in 1880 on the northern island of Hokkaido after the fall of the Tokugawa shogunate. Watanabe will take on the Eastwood role as a samurai holdout living in poverty who accepts a final job as a bounty killer.

Watanabe also commented on the project. “Eastwood is a Godfather of the film world, so remaking one of his major works is a big challenge. Under director Lee we will do battle in the great outdoors of Hokkaido and create our own take on Unforgiven.”

Watanabe will be joined by veteran actors Akira Emoto, playing the Morgan Freeman role, and Koichi Sato as Gene Hackman’s character.

The production marks the first Japanese remake of an Oscar-winning film. Development began in May 2011 with Eastwood giving his blessing last November. “I’m honoured that my good friend Ken Watanabe, who did such great work on Letters From Iwo Jima, is teaming up with Lee Sang-il for the Japanese remake of Unforgiven,” Eastwood said in a statement.

Principal photography will begin in mid-September until the end of November on location in Hokkaido. Warner is aiming for a fall 2013 release.

Among Hollywood studios, Warner Japan continues to remain the most active in local language production and distribution. 2010’s The Last Ronin was the studio’s first in-house production.

Warner releases in-house production Rurouni Kenshin on August 25 and Venice competition entry Outrage Beyond as distributor on October 6.